Trending Topics

Increased lift assist calls for Ill. ambulance service point to aging population

LifeStar Ambulance Service Jacksonville responds to at least 10 lift assist calls a week, most being “no-contact medical alarms”


Lifestar ambulances.

Lifestar Ambulance, Jacksonville Division/Facebook

By Ben Singson
Jacksonville Journal-Courier

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — Most people picture emergency service workers responding to high-intensity, high-pressure situations that demand immediate attention.

The reality frequently is much more mundane. Oftentimes, they are helping lift someone who has fallen and can’t get up on their own.

Lift assists are one of the most common calls emergency service agencies receive. They are so common that some communities, such as Decatur, have begun charging a fee for lift assists.

But just because such calls are common doesn’t mean they aren’t important, emergency services workers say.

Jason Sheumaker, operations manager for LifeStar Ambulance Service’s Jacksonville division, estimated the ambulance company receives an average of at least 10 lift-assist calls each week. He said most lift-assist calls to which LifeStar responds are “no-contact medical alarms.”

In his 11 years with LifeStar, Sheumaker said, lift-assist calls have become more frequent. He attributes it to the region’s aging population, understaffing at assisted living facilities and some larger patients needing extra help getting up off the ground.

Just more than 21% of Morgan County’s population is over the age of 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

[RELATED: Geriatric slips, trips and falls: 3 assessment considerations]

Lift assists could occasionally divert an unnecessary amount of resources to a situation that does not need it, because dispatchers sometimes have to work with incomplete information about an emergency, Sheumaker said. There also have been times when a more pressing emergency developed while crews were handling a lift assist, he said.

“There is some delay,” Sheumaker said. “It’s not a large amount of time, but still, there’s a little bit of delay.”

Regardless of the circumstance, those calls need to be answered, Jacksonville/Morgan County Office of Emergency Management Director Phil McCarty said. If someone who falls were left on the ground for hours, they could develop more severe injuries than if they were helped up pretty quickly, he said.

“From our standpoint, yeah, it’s not the highest-acuity call that we deal with,” McCarty said, “but every call for service needs somebody to address it, some way, somehow.”

Managing resources as emergency situations develop each day is a balancing act, McCarty said, but it is “very dangerous” for emergency workers to put off taking care of lift assists.

“We’ve got more calls than we have human resources to go on, it feels like, every day,” McCarty said. “Whether it’s a lift assist or whatever, we have to meet the people’s needs in the community and make sure we send the right people or what we have and just do the best we can, every day.”

(c)2024 the Jacksonville Journal-Courier (Jacksonville, Ill.)
Visit the Jacksonville Journal-Courier (Jacksonville, Ill.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.